We gather at the coffee shop.
We gather in the historic Green Block building clutching our lattes and staring into the abyss of our computers. We gather together.
Over there is mohawk guy, working on his computer while a woman at his table writes on colored index cards. Nearby is the couple in business attire, she in heels and he in a suit, enacting that old art of conversation.
There’s a guy studying from a textbook, a guy sitting on the couch, a guy watching videos on his laptop, a couple tapping on their phones. The woman who walked in reading a fashion catalog has left with her vanilla latte with an extra shot and another woman is looking for the power outlet for one of her devices.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Bontrager and Melissa O’Neill take money and make the coffee grinder whirr and espresso machine hum.
Those sounds have been part of Elkhart, part of this place, since the mid-1990s when Tanya Fox Bleiler opened The Daily Grind here at 113 E. Lexington Ave. A few years ago, she sold it to Myron Bontrager and his family to make it the second location of The Electric Brew. It’s not the only coffee shop in Elkhart, but is the oldest and the only one in Elkhart Dining Days.
Soft, inoffensive music plays, but not so loud that someone with headphones would suffer. The walls are adorned with art, some permanent and some from local artists that changes over time.
Elkhart Dining Days brings a couple more reasons to visit this place. At breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., $5 will get you a special meal with a cup of coffee or orange juice. The options change daily.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., $10 will get you a sandwich with a pastry and soft drink. Tuesday it was a turkey sriracha panini. Monday it was a bacon panini.
The panini press is the friend of the coffee shop owner. It’s small and yet elevates the simple sandwich. I have often said that panini is just Italian for “expensive grilled cheese,” but this version from the Brew with spinach and tomato wasn’t overpriced. And it came with tortilla chips, another friend of the coffee shop owner looking for an easy side to fill a plate with the sandwich.
The Brew has long had good pastries. The evening special for Dining Days from 6 to 8 daily is two small specialty drinks and two pastries. It’s called an “after dinner date,” but I suppose you could eat the $10 special yourself. Or just find someone to gift half of it to if you come alone.
I struggled to decide on the lunch pastry, but passed by the Kahlua brownie that has been a staple. I opted instead for the bar made with a pretzel and peanut butter bottom layered on top with chocolate. This dessert became my friend for a few minutes, but now it’s just a delicious memory.
We gather here at the coffee shop. The hum of conversation swirls. We sit in the same place together for hours at a time, sometimes by ourselves, but never fully alone.
We gather in this place because we need places like this. We need places to sell us caffeine and comfort. But we also need places where we can come together as people in this community, living out another day together.